Begun during the Spanish Civil War and finished in the first weeks of
the Second World War, Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto – ‘rather
serious, I’m afraid’ was his wry comment - opens with a Beethovenian
gesture on timpani after which the soloist asserts dominance by turning
gentle somersaults high above the orchestra.
But when that soloist is the Dutch violinist Janine Jansen –
possessor of a supremely refined line - the dominance becomes more like
persuasion. Her performance brought out this work’s echoes of the Berg concerto
for which it was a homage: each phrase was exquisitely calibrated, with the
threnody of the Passacaglia suggesting a lament for the demise of the
Transylvanian musicians whose swoops and slides she had celebrated in the
With Arvo Part’s “Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten” Parvo Jarvi and the
Orchestre de Paris had already demonstrated their fastidious control of
dynamics, but Saint-Saens’ “Organ” Symphony allowed them to do so again.
Thierry Escaich was the organist, and although his role was mostly limited to
providing a sonic foundation, his final letting-rip shook the real foundations.